Arthur C. Clarke famously wrote that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I have always had mixed feelings about this quote because as an engineer my reaction to something really advanced like self driving cars is to want to understand the science behind it. So does that mean there is no “magic” for engineers?

I remember first looking at Twilio and thinking it can’t really be that easy to receive a phone call using a program. A couple lines of code? That’s all? More recently I had the same reaction looking at Firebase. Javascript objects that are local but are synchronized over the network? Set values with a single call and receive a callback when a value changes? That’s really it? In a trial a few weeks ago it took me less than an hour to turn a single player game into a two player game (and that includes signing up for Firebase and reading the documentation). Both of these are examples of a kind of magic for engineers: access to a much more powerful “spell” that let’s you do new and amazing things.

Firebase’s service arrives just at the right time because the need for synchronization has gone up tremendously. Up until fairly recently synchronization occurred entirely on the server. In a “submit form to get to next page” web world that was perfectly acceptable. But with today’s Javascript based frontends the page reload is a thing of the past (thankfully). And to create fast mobile apps data has to be local to avoid the latency from server roundtrips, especially for small actions (e.g., marking a message as read). Firebase doesn’t just handle much of this synchronization but also does so in realtime, which is particularly impressive and super useful for any type of collaboration. You can see some of the things that people have built on Firebase here.

Today we are announcing our investment in Firebase together with Flybridge Capital Partners. We are excited to be backing James, Andrew and the Firebase team as they build out their amazing service. You can read more about the financing on the Firebase blog.

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